3 Negative Thoughts that Point to Your Purpose
Recent research has been bolstering the benefits of positive thinking, and I have jumped on that bandwagon with enthusiasm. However, time and again, I hear friends and clients shutting out negative thoughts in an effort to heed this new wisdom and I question how much that helps. Is it time to reconsider the value of negative thoughts? What part of yourself do you shut out when you turn away from negative thoughts? Could that part be trying to tell you something absolutely essential? Could it be a trusted ally that refuses to let you stray from your true purpose in life?
In my experience as a military spouse recovering my career after the impact of 7 long war-time deployments, negative thinking consistently guided me to my purpose. Over the course of 12 years, these loyal friends have stayed by my side and refused to let me give up on the dreams and contributions I believe I am here to make. Although these friends are many – 100s of negative thought buddies can party in my mind all at once – there are three that served me most.
“She is so lucky, if only my PhD program and husband happened to be in the same city … she doesn’t even know how lucky she is … ”
“Well most of my mentors are divorced, so I guess I have to choose between academia and marriage, I can’t have both.”
“It’s because she’s selfish that she gets to have a family and a career.”
I hear friends and clients shutting out negative thoughts in an effort to heed this new wisdom and I question how much that helps.
Since these three friends stubbornly refused to leave and continued to drop in for visits at all hours, I finally decided to try listening to them. Through the self-connection practices of Nonviolent Communication, I learned that there are two key gems to pull out of any negative thought: a feeling (an emotion so real you feel it in your body) and a need – the thing you are wanting, yearning for, longing for.
For me, sadness lay at the root of these three negative thoughts. Whenever they appeared, it was time to connect with the mourning, the loss. I began to practice feeling the feelings. Yup, I’m sad. I’m sad I gave up on my goals. I’m sad I’ve lived far from my beloved for 5 years. I’m sad I’m eating dinner alone again. I’m sad I quit an awesome job to move. I’m freakin sad.
The needs that were trying desperately to express through the 3 thoughts were purpose, contribution, expression, interaction with the world, love, companionship.
Over the years, I learned to welcome these negative thoughts, connect with the feelings behind them, and from that place, perceive the deeper need, and then take an action, however small, to meet the need. Like stepping stones on a winding path, this process guided me through the uncertain years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and kept me moving towards my purpose.
So often negative thoughts are expressions of parts of ourselves that desperately want to come to life. They are knocking on the door, begging to be let in. Do you have any friends like this? Is there any chance you are shutting them out? There are several common shutdowns I see that get in the way of hearing the wisdom of negative thoughts.
Often negative thoughts are expressions of parts of ourselves that desperately want to come to life.
“I can’t believe I’m thinking envious thoughts, I should be ashamed, there is so much I should be grateful for.”
“Well don’t dwell on negatives, I should just see what I can do about it and move on.”
“Well I just need to get busy and before I know it I will forget all about this.”
When we apply these shutdowns, we are sending a friend out into the cold of winter. Why do we do that? I believe it’s because we see them as enemies. We think they will hurt us. We think we will help ourselves out more by saying, “Be quiet, I’m not letting you take me down, focus on the positive, get busy, be grateful.”
You have a choice – you can apply a shutdown and stick a positive thought over it, but my hunch is that bandaid will fall off before you know it. Instead, you can stop and listen. You can say, “Hey, you are full of envy and judgment, come on in. Let’s talk. Tell me, what do you feel? What do you want?” And THEN you can take those wants and put them to action.
They know that your life is happening now and now is the chance for you to awaken to your purpose. Now that’s a good friend.
And guess what? After you have that heart-to-heart with your negative thought-friend, they might stop waking you up in the middle of the night. Because the part of yourself you listened to and took action for might now send a positive thought. A real, deep, genuine positive thought.
Or, if your negative thoughts keep knocking for years on end, that just means they don’t think you’re quite on track. They will get up in the middle of the night and trek through the cold and the dark to wake you up, because they know that your life is happening now and now is the chance for you to awaken to your purpose. Now that’s a good friend.
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